This past weekend’s storm let up long enough to allow for a pleasant drive up to San Francisco. ’Tis the season for holiday parties and Christmas shopping and for making sure we get to see our friends before the December calendar gets too full. We met good friends at Marlowe Saturday night, one of the more popular restaurants in the city. Marlowe offers casual dining with a focus on American bistro dishes with typical San Francisco flair. Steak tartare, brussels sprout chips and roasted bone marrow share the menu with steak-n-fries and the good old burger. I had a crab cake with shaved celery and Mandarin oranges and a perfectly-moist pork chop but the menu item that made the biggest impression on me that night was one I didn’t even order.
I love, love pistachios. In fact, they compete with almonds for my affection. But give me a dinner menu and my eyes will almost always gravitate towards the dishes I just mentioned–crab cakes, pork chops and yes, bone marrow. Thank goodness for a friend who saw the potential in the first item on the menu: toasted pistachios.
They were served in a small, half-full mason jar, unimpressive at a glance. I was hungry, though, so I sampled one….then I reached for another. In no time at all the jar was empty and all six of us agreed to order another. Slightly sweet, a little salty and with just a hint of the bourbon, these pistachios were very hard to resist. I’ve roasted almonds before but there was something about the bourbon and maple syrup in the pistachios that really spoke to my taste buds. I couldn’t wait to try them at home.
The next day I picked up a bag of shelled, roasted, unsalted pistachios along with my very first bottle of bourbon. I had no idea that bourbon was a type of whiskey*; it took a few minutes to scan the contents of the liquor aisle to find what I needed. Besides this and maple syrup, the menu at Marlowe listed smoked salt as another key ingredient–no luck finding this so I settled for Himalayan pink salt that I’ve had waiting to be used.
I played around to find the right measurements for the bourbon, maple syrup and salt and toasted the pistachios in the oven. As an afterthought I also added brown sugar to the mix because I wasn’t sure that the syrup would be enough. The result? My version hit all the right subtle bourbon notes and I think the sugar actually helped. Even with my addition, my pistachios are still slightly less sweet than the restaurant’s version. If you like salty and sweet together, you will enjoy these. So go ahead and pull out that bottle of bourbon from your liquor cabinet–a splash or two in these toasted nuts will make your holiday table that much more festive.
* The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for this post on Kentucky Bourbon at She’s Cookin’. If you’re a bourbon newbie like I am, you’ll really enjoy Priscilla’s write-up.
** These do get a little sticky because of the maple syrup so make sure you roast them in a single layer and if you double the batch, reduce the amount of maple syrup used. Check the notes in the recipe for other tips to reduce stickiness.
- 1 8-ounce bag shelled pistachios (I used Trader Joe’s which were already roasted but unsalted)
- 1½ Tablespoons bourbon
- 2½ Tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar (you can add more if you want this a bit sweeter)
- ¾ – 1 teaspoon salt
- Preheat your oven to 250°F and line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients together and toss well. My measurements for the bourbon, maple syrup and sugar are on the mild side so feel free to add a bit more to suit your taste but don’t be tempted to add more salt. ¾ teaspoon should be enough, no more than 1 teaspoon.
- Arrange the pistachios in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking tray and toast the nuts for about 15 minutes. You may want to toss them once halfway through the cooking time.
- Allow them to cool to room temperature before serving. The syrup and sugar will cause the nuts to stick so you may want to separate them with your fingers and toss them on the pan before you transfer them to a bowl.